“As September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, I’d like to take this opportunity to share my story of how a Zumba community has come together to help me in my battle against this deadly disease.
After a few months of unexplained symptoms and countless doctor appointments and tests, I found myself in the ER on two separate occasions. Both times, four women from my Zumba Gold class showed up and stayed as tests were run, always making sure I was comfortable and had anything that I may need. Eventually, I was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer. These women – Barb Akins, Gina Chassard, Diane Sackett, and Elyce Ponte – are my Angels, and they have been with me every step of the way.
One of these women introduced me to Bonnie Miller, my fifth Angel who works at the Fox Chase Cancer Care Center. Even though it is an hour and a half away from where we live, she set up an appointment for me and all my Angels have come along for several consultations, a laparoscopy, a biopsy, chemo, and even surgery for a hysterectomy.
Throughout all this, Zumba continued to be a focus in our lives. We attended Zumbathons to raise money for cancer research. After one of my Zumba Gold classes, my students sat me down and handed me a box filled with a fairly large sum of money. They wanted to take my financial worries away while I focused on my health. I was speechless. Several Instructors have stepped in to fill my classes and make sure my students are getting what they need. I am overwhelmed with support.
Two days after my only daughters wedding – where by the grace of God, I felt great, smiled, danced and had a blast – I began my chemotherapy treatments. The doctors now expect me to show up with my “posse”, as my Angels are with me for each and every session. They have organized meal sign-up plans so that I never have to worry about food. They even threw me a fantastic 50th birthday bash where we wore tutus and tiaras and danced the night away to our favorite Zumba songs.
As I write this, I realize words really cannot truly capture all of the love that has been bestowed upon me from my Zumba family. So many times, I have had people tell me they are amazed at how positive I have remained. My response? ‘How could I possibly feel down when I have so many people lifting me up?’ On a side note, my body has responded beautifully to all my treatments. I feel like my five years as a Zumba Instructor were merely training for the battle of my life.
My story is a shining example of how deep Zumba love runs. How blessed am I to be the recipient of it? Life is good!”
– Donna Barats, licensed Zumba® Instructor, Ovarian Cancer Fighter, and Lover of Life
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